Important Australian + International Fine Art
26 August 2015


born 1928

watercolour, gouache and pastel on paper

99.0 x 93.0 cm

signed and inscribed lower left: 'Early Morning /Frog Movements' / John / Olsen

$40,000 - 60,000
Sold for $51,240 (inc. BP) in Auction 40 - 26 August 2015, Sydney

Private collection 
Sotheby's, Melbourne, 25 August 1998, lot 39 
Gene and Brian Sherman collection, 
Sydney (label attached verso)

Catalogue text

The following excerpt is quoted from Hart, D., John Olsen, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1991, pp. 128 - 129 

'Olsen continued to explore this sense of the burgeoning water world after repeated visits to North Queensland during the 1970s and into the 1980s. In gouaches such as North Queensland Lily Pond, he once again delineates particular forms - the spatula beak of a spoonbill, tiny, spritely frogs, lily pads and flowers - while all around them the paint, applied in washes, is stippled and allowed to form pools and puddles... Olsen later summed up his feelings about these environments: 

Working on these projects really altered my way of looking at things because I could see not only bird-life but a whole range of biology. It is so staggeringly fragile. You have to see the estuaries and the waterlands to have the birds, the frogs, the crustaceans. In David Attenborough's film series he indicates that life really began in the water and after thousands of years creatures left the water. There is still in those beautiful lily ponds that whole kind of structure that is the beginning of life. It just burgeons itself in tropical countries.

In a sequence of the last 'Wild Australia' film in which Olsen took part, 'The Diminishing Rainforest', we discover him near a waterfall holding in his hands a glistening little wet frog. This was the start of his passionate fascination with these agile amphibians. In his notebooks, Olsen made sketches of these creatures, closely examining their structure. This intimate acquaintance established, a plethora of frogs following into the Lake Eyre period and through the 1980s. He was entranced by their vital energy as well as by their disjointed quality: 'the crazy articulation of their limbs, which corresponds with a sense of mental dislocation'.'